Tatiana's eyes were filled with confusion as pieces of meat fell around her.
What's going on?
Unfortunately, she didn't have much time to think about it.
In a moment of respite, the monsters once again began to attack Tatiana.
Tatiana's left hand reached out in a flash of light, slicing through the neck of one of the monsters.
However, the momentary opening created an opportunity for another monster to attack.
While Tatiana's strike was powerful enough to cut through steel, there was inevitably a gap between each attack.
This was the reason she was assigned to a reconnaissance unit rather than a defensive force that had to face multiple monsters and demons at once.
Ether swirled around her.
Just as Tatiana was preparing for her second strike, enduring the strain on her body.
A bullet flew past her, hitting the head of a monster that had just approached her.
It was only a moment, but Tatiana's sharp senses didn't miss the fact that it was a bullet.
Was it Ark?
No, it wasn't.
Judging by the direction the monster fell, the bullet didn't come from where Ark was.
Moreover, the distance between them was too far for any support from Ark to arrive in time."Then... who could it be?"
It couldn't be support from Arc.
But if it wasn't Arc nearby, there had to be someone who could help her.
"Where could they be? I can't read it at all."
If the sniper had shot from a distance of about 2km, Tatiana's sharp senses could have located the spot where the bullet was fired.
But Tatiana had no idea where the bullet came from.
She only had a rough idea of the direction.
It was impossible.
It was also something that shouldn't happen at the same time.
Tatiana felt another question arise.
"How could they know?"
Tatiana felt a strange chill.
She was not an ordinary person; she was an Ether Aptitude user at level 3, yet she couldn't even locate the sniper in this unknown place.
Then, how did the sniper in the darkness know her existence and perform this sniper attack?
"Could they have better senses than me?"
It wasn't good.
Not good at all.
If the sniper wasn't targeting Masu but her instead?
Just imagining it brought a terrible fate that was waiting for her.
"...The situation is not yet confirmed as an ally."
While Tatiana couldn't shake off her suspicions about the sniper, a Masu charging towards her suddenly exploded.
To shoot from a distance of at least 2km... Continuous successful shots like this were incredible, not something that was easy to believe even if seen with her own eyes.
"Even in Arc, such a sniper is rare."
Tatiana was secretly amazed but did not stop moving her legs.
Thanks to the opening created by the sniper in the darkness, the distance between her and the Masu charging towards her had widened considerably.Splat!
Even amidst the chaos, the sniper bullets flew like a silent assassin, never stopping.
The horses fell one by one, like dominoes.
"There should be a natural pause between each sniper shot for reloading and such," Tatiana thought, "but I can't sense any such pause."
This level of sniper skill couldn't possibly belong to just one person.
It had to be Ark's troops. The fact that they had helped her and were moving together as a team made it clear. But which unit could it be? The Red Line's scout team, or perhaps White Line's direct defense unit?
If it was the latter, responsible for guarding the front line with Noah, then this level of sniping would be a piece of cake.
"But who they are doesn't matter," Tatiana realized suddenly.
Her wariness towards the unknown sniper vanished like melting snow.
"I don't need to know who they are, as long as I survive this."
Tatiana promised herself that she would express her gratitude if she made it out alive. She also resolved to repay this favor in some way.
Then, Tatiana realized that she had entered Ark's defensive line.
[woof, woof, woof...]
Although there was no actual line drawn in Ark's defense perimeter, it seemed as if there was one, as the demons were met with a relentless barrage of bullets and bombs as they crossed a certain point.
It was Ark's offensive.
After a long escape, they had finally succeeded in infiltrating Ark's defense line.
Tatiana felt her legs give way as she finally realized that she had survived, but she couldn't collapse here.
She had something important that she had to deliver.
She ran and ran, and ran some more.
How long had she been running?
With the numb voice that echoed from the speakers, she felt that she had arrived at the gate.
["Identify your affiliation."]
Tatiana took a deep breath to calm her racing heart before answering.
"...I am Major Tatiana Belorov, from the Navy Line Headquarters Reconnaissance Unit."
["Please wait a moment."]
As the scanner began to scan her body, she felt a familiar unpleasant sensation, but she couldn't complain.
["Identity confirmed. Welcome to Red Line, Major Belorov."]
With those words, the gate to Red Line began to descend.
And as soon as she saw the red-haired woman who appeared, Tatiana's expression, which had been frozen until now, suddenly relaxed.
Whether it was coincidence or fate, the gatekeeper was Imocia, who had been her comrade.
"Long time no see, Tatiana. Oh, I guess you're a lieutenant now?"
Imocia, a second lieutenant and the person in charge of the Red-17 gate, welcomed Tatiana Belorov, who had returned from a long mission."Imocia!"
Tatiana ran towards Imocia, and they hugged tightly.
It was a reunion with an old comrade-in-arms, who had once stood back to back on the front lines.
* * *
Sighing deeply, I gazed at the overheated barrel of the Ark-15 anti-material sniper rifle, now glowing red.
"I guess you could say that the overheating-resistant Ark-15 barrel has a disadvantage that's not really a disadvantage...I've been firing it pretty damn hard."
It could be seen as a flaw of the Infinite Bullet rifle, but I had been so focused on sniping that I hadn't even realized the barrel had reached this point.
"But there was nothing else I could do."
If Inyeong's footsteps had been just a little slower, it could have been very dangerous.
If I had poorly managed the overheating and sniped poorly, I wouldn't have gotten here so easily.
The massive firepower of the Ark had been slaughtering the waves of monsters that were relentlessly chasing Inyeong towards the defense line.
Not even hundreds of monsters could withstand the Ark's firepower.
"I did what I had to, but...I'm not sure if it was the right thing to do."
If I hadn't intervened, Inyeong, who was running away, would have undoubtedly been caught by the monsters.
But the fact that Inyeong survived didn't necessarily mean it would be helpful to me or the Ark.
"Statistically speaking, there's a high probability that Inyeong was part of a reconnaissance or similar unit."
In other words, they were on some mission and ended up in this predicament while returning to the Ark.
That's probably the best way to look at it.
But generally speaking, the positive possibilities were stronger than the negative ones.
"There are more missions that won't harm the Ark among the external missions I know of than those that will."
That was also why I chose to rescue Inyeong without much hesitation.
"And on top of that..."
There was also the fact that I gained something from this snipe."I have successfully sniped at a distance of 10km."
"When sniping at a distance of 5km or more, there is an additional 5% damage effect applied."
"My skill level has increased."
"11 -> 12"
"I have answered the call of the soul."
"My ether sensitivity has increased."
"7 -> 8"
I don't know if it's because I'm staying in Noah, but my ether sensitivity seems to increase for no reason.
If you think that raising ether sensitivity is usually more difficult than other stats, it was an unbelievable growth rate.
"Come to think of it... I completely lost sleep tonight."
As I watched the darkness gradually recede beyond the horizon, I realized that it was already dawn.
It was truly a long night.
"In the end, it turned out like this."
Perhaps it was because I had soaked in the hot springs earlier and relaxed my fatigue a bit, but I wasn't that tired despite not sleeping.
I had doubts about whether I could even fall asleep in the first place.
Soon, I chose to move rather than rest awkwardly.
Since the first wave was not far away, I felt the need to move diligently.
"Then... let's get started."
I looked at the can of food on the shelf.
The creature inside the can had been banging on the door with all its might since earlier.
If I wanted to, I wouldn't hesitate to take it out slowly.
"Of course, I'll use it as I please."
A bone parasite.
It was time to use it.Chapter 2: Tatiana Beloruf (End)
The sun had already set, casting a warm glow over the city. Tatiana Beloruf stood at the edge of the balcony, gazing at the picturesque view of Seoul. She could see the bustling streets below, the neon lights illuminating the night sky. The city was alive with energy, pulsating with the rhythm of its inhabitants.
But Tatiana was not interested in the city, nor did she care for its people. Her thoughts were consumed by the events of the day. She had met with the CEO of a major corporation, and their conversation had left her feeling uneasy.
Tatiana was a woman who knew how to read people. She could sense their intentions, their desires, and their weaknesses. And the CEO had given her a bad feeling. He had offered her a job, but his words had been laced with insincerity.
She knew that he wanted something from her, something beyond her skills as a translator. Tatiana was not naive. She knew that in the world of business, everyone had an angle. But this man's intentions were murky, and she did not want to be caught up in his web of deceit.
So she had declined the offer, much to his surprise. But Tatiana was not one to compromise her principles for the sake of money or power. She valued her independence, and she would not sell herself out for anyone.
As she stood on the balcony, lost in thought, she felt a presence behind her. She turned to see a man standing there, watching her intently.
"Who are you?" she asked, her voice laced with suspicion.
The man smiled, his eyes glinting in the dim light. "My name is Kim Min-joon. I heard you turned down a job offer today."
Tatiana narrowed her eyes. "What do you want?"
Min-joon shrugged. "Nothing, really. I just wanted to talk to you."
Tatiana was skeptical. She had dealt with too many smooth talkers in her line of work. But there was something about Min-joon that intrigued her. He had an air of confidence, a quiet strength that she found appealing.
So she allowed him to join her on the balcony, and they talked for hours. They spoke of many things, from the intricacies of language to the meaning of life. Tatiana found herself opening up to him, sharing her thoughts and fears.
And when the night had passed, and the first rays of dawn were breaking through the clouds, Tatiana knew that she had found a kindred spirit in Min-joon. He was a man of integrity, a man who shared her values and beliefs.
As they said their goodbyes, Tatiana felt a sense of peace wash over her. She knew that she had made a friend, a true friend, and that was worth more than any job offer or business deal.
For Tatiana Belorov, life was not about money or power. It was about finding meaning and purpose, about forging deep connections with others. And in Kim Min-joon, she had found a kindred spirit, a partner in the journey of life.